5. Work Fast, Locate: In his first start of the 2015 campaign last Saturday night in Citizens Bank Park, right-hander Doug Fister held the Philadelphia Phillies' scoreless over 6 ⅓ innings pitched, giving up six hits and a walk while inducing 12 groundouts from the 26 batters he faced.
With Washington up 1-0 in the seventh, Fister was lifted after he gave up a one-out single to Andres Blanco on his 95th pitch of the game.
"He looked good," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said after what ended up being a 3-2 loss. "He threw the ball where he wanted to, worked quickly like he always does. I thought he pitched really well."
In five career starts against the Phillies before tonight's, the veteran of six-plus major league seasons was (2-2) with a 2.12 ERA, five walks (2.25 BB/9) and 20 Ks (5.29 K/9) in 34 IP over which he held Philly hitters to a combined .227/.267/.359 line against.
In his second start against Philadelphia in a week, the 31-year-old righty retired the side in order in an 11-pitch first, then, given a 1-0 lead to work with in the bottom of the frame, worked around a leadoff single by Jeff Francoeur for a scoreless nine-pitch second.
Darin Ruf doubled to right-center to start the Phillies' third, but he was thrown out at third base on a weak bunt back to the mound by Cole Hamels. One out later, however, Bryce Harper misjudged and misplayed a fly to right by Freddy Galvis that scored Hamels from first when it bounced off the out-of-town scoreboard just out of the right fielder's reach. Triple for Galvis. Tie game, 1-1. 13-pitch frame for Fister, 33 total.
• Punny stuff, Phillies' Twitter:
Fister issued a four-pitch walk to Jeff Francoeur in the first at bat of the fourth, and one out later, Michael Taylor made an error on a line drive to center off Carlos Ruiz's bat that bounced off the heel of his glove. Fister walked Ryan Howard to load the bases with one down and a sac fly to center by Darin Ruf put the Phillies ahead. 15-pitch frame for Fister, 48 total after four.
Chase Utley lined out sharply to right to end a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth by Fister, who was up to 59 pitches after five. A quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left him at 66 pitches.
Grady Sizemore lined a single to center with two down in the top of the seventh, and Odubel Herrera walked to put two on in front of Freddy Galvis. Fister fell behind 3-0, and walked Galvis on four pitches, prompting Matt Williams to make a call to the pen. 86 pitches for Fister...
• Doug Fister's Line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB(?), 4 Ks, 86 P, 50 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
4. #FakeTough: Cole Hamels held the Nationals to one run on two hits in seven innings of work last Saturday night in the Phillies' 3-2 win over Washington in Citizens Bank Park. The one run came on an opposite field home run to right by Wilson Ramos. The only other hit came in the first, when a single by Yunel Escobar and walk by Bryce Harper put two on with one out before back-to-back groundouts ended the frame. Hamels settled in after that and retired 19 of the final 21 batters he faced.
"Early on he was a little outside the strike zone, not typical of him," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said. "But we had some chances against him and that's why he's such a good pitcher, he gets out of those situations that he's in."
Hamels received no decision in the game, so he remained (18-5) against the Nationals over the course of his career with a 2.59 ERA and a .218/.274/.342 line against in 33 starts and 219 IP against the Phillies' NL East rivals over his nine-plus seasons in the majors.
In his second start of the year against Washington and his third outing of the season overall, the 31-year-old southpaw gave up a home run to left-center on a first-pitch fastball to Nats' leadoff man Yunel Escobar, who deposited it in the first row of the Red Porch seats.
Hamels retired nine of the next ten batters he faced after the home run by Escobar, with Danny Espinosa's two-out in the second walk the only blemish after the blast. A 13-pitch third left him at 48 pitches.
Bryce Harper walked with one down in the Nats' fourth and took second on a balk by Hamels before scoring the tying run on a two-out, broken-bat single to left field by Wilson Ramos. Tied up at 2-2. 66 pitches for the Philly left-hander after an 18-pitch frame.
Michael Taylor got hold of a 2-0 fastball from Hamels in the home-half of the fifth, and hit it out to left field and into the visitor's bullpen. Solo blast, 3-2 Nats.
Jayson Werth doubled to center to start the Nationals' sixth and Harper walked again in the next at bat to put two on in front of Ryan Zimmerman, who doubled to the right field corner to drive both runners in and make it 5-2.
• Cole Hamels' Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 7 Ks, 2 HR, 95 P, 55 S, 7/3 GO/FO.
3. Moar Runz Plz: After the Nationals failed to drive runners in when they were on and score runs in general over the first few games this season, things picked up in Boston with Washington's hitters scoring 11 runs total in back-to-back losses in the first two games of three with the Red Sox and 10 runs in the series finale in Fenway Park.
Matt Williams was asked after Wednesday's win what he was seeing and what turned things around?
"Aggressive," he said. "Swinging at the pitches they want to swing at. With the short porch here, you get a ball that's inner half, you can hit it over the fence. The biggest part is they're getting in hitters' counts and taking advantage of it. That's what we want to do."
Asked if there was anything to the old maxim about hitting being contagious, and what was really behind that sort of thing, Williams cracked a smile.
"Boy, if I had that we'd be way ahead of the game," Williams said. "It's a question of just being patient enough to get in a count that you want to get into. Veteran guys do that. They've been around long enough to understand that. But up and down the lineup today we had good at bats."
Against the Phillies and Cole Hamels tonight, the Nationals were facing a pitcher who'd allowed three runs or less in 15-straight starts against Philadelphia's divisional rivals.
Hamels has allowed 3ER or less in 15 straight starts vs the Nats, but he is winless in his last 5 starts against the Nats since 2013— Dave Jageler (@DaveJageler) April 16, 2015
That streak ended in the sixth when Ryan Zimmerman drove in the fourth and fifth runs of the game for the Nationals with an opposite field double to right. 5-2 at that point. Streak. Over.
2. Turning Point(s): How about a first-pitch ambush turning point? Yunel Escobar was apparently looking fastball and he got one from Cole Hamels on the first pitch the lefty threw in the bottom of the first. Escobar hit it out to left-center, giving a fan in the Red Porch seats a souvenir.
Two misplays in the outfield hurt the Nationals again tonight, however. Bryce Harper misplayed a fly to right-center-ish off Freddy Galvis' bat in the third, allowing Cole Hamels to score from first with two down and Nats' center fielder Michael Taylor missed Carlos Ruiz's line drive to center in the fourth, putting a runner on third so that Darin Ruf's sac fly scored the go-ahead run. 2-1 after three and a half in D.C.
Bryce Harper made up for the misplay in the fourth, (sort of) taking a walk, moving to second on a balk and scoring on a single to left by Wilson Ramos. 2-2. Taylor made up for his error (sort of) with a solo blast to left in the fifth, 3-2, and Ryan Zimmerman put the Nats ahead 5-2 with a two-run double in the sixth.
1. The Wrap-Up: Matt Thornton took over on the mound with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh against Chase Utley and got a fly ball to center field that ended the frame. Still 5-2 Nationals.
Luis Garcia gave up a one-out single by Ian Desmond in the seventh, but a double play grounder off Jayson Werth's bat ended the frame.
Aaron Barrett retired the Phillies in order in the eighth in a quick, 10-pitch frame. Jonathan Papelbon got some work in the bottom of the inning, throwing a quick, 1-2-3 frame.
Drew Storen came on in the top of the ninth inning looking for save no.3 of 2015 and gave up a leadoff single to right by Ryan Howard in the first at bat. Darin Ruf K'd swinging over a 2-2 slider for out no.1 and Ben Revere grounded into a game-ending 6-3 DP.
Nationals now 4-6